The IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) initiative has recently developed into a multi-national effort that addresses the specific needs of healthcare systems in North America, many European countries as well as Japan. The introduction of IHE in Europe is a particular challenge because the structure of the healthcare sector deviates significantly from country to country, with different legislation, language, medical and organizational procedures and, not the least, different vendors: HIS/RIS systems are typically tailored towards a specific market, and the majority of vendors is only present in one or a few countries.
The first multi-national "European Connect-a-thon" was performed in April, 2002 with 57 participating systems from 33 companies, in preparation of four different public demonstrations in three countries. The systems were grouped into a French, German and Italian section (according to the national extensions supported by each system), with certain overlaps, i. e. systems participating in multiple sections in parallel. In conclusion, experiences in Europe show that IHE cannot simply be copied, but has to be adapted to the specificities of national healthcare systems. The good news is, however, that the specifics are only of minor nature compared to the overall complexity of the transactions involved.